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5 minutes

When did freedom get so hard? And how to stop it making us stuck.

by Julie Perkins

Remember back when jeans came in only one flavour?

Mine were a trusty pair of Levi’s, oh and the stories they could tell…These days, jeans are available in a seemingly inexhaustible range of fit, colour and style – slim fit, easy fit, relaxed fit, button fly, zip fly, stonewashed, acid-washed, distressed, boot cut, tapered cut, mid-rise, boyfriend, slouchy – or indeed, any combination of the above. Something that Barry Schwartz ruminates in depth in his long established Ted Talk ‘The Paradox of Choice’ and his book of the same title.

Woah! When did deciding on denim get so darned difficult?

With so much choice, I always feel like shopping for jeans is on equal par to the challenge of my Mathematics A level, having a similar outcome of beginning with confidence and hope and resulting in a disappointing D grade. How can you plump on the perfect pair – when there’s invariably always going to be a better option out there?

“Opportunity costs subtract from the satisfaction that we get out of what we choose – even when what we choose is terrific.” – Barry Schwartz, Psychologist

Schwartz suggests that the freedom which we think should be created by having so many choices in life, actually results in us never being quite satisfied with the ones we do make. He concludes that “opportunity costs subtract from the satisfaction that we get out of what we choose – even when what we choose is terrific.”

Perhaps his suggestion runs even more true today in growing our business. The choices we need to make can seem similarly perplexing, overwhelming and ultimately paralysing. Particularly so, when Covid has forced us to rapidly rethink the way we work, ensuring we remain relevant in a world that’s suddenly been turned upside down.

Retracing our steps in an ever-changing world

Therefore, we find ourselves going one of two ways. We either stay resolutely fixed to the path we’ve always trod, when in actual fact we’re going way off course without a compass (or GPS tracker) to our name. Or we hop from one decision to another, agonising over and second-guessing each choice we make and tying ourselves in knots – all the while, making no meaningful progress.

Sound all too familiar?

In fact, it’s something of a human trait to doggedly stick to the path we know, without reconsidering that there may be a better route. Adam Grant, an organisational psychologist explores this in his Ted Talk ‘What Frogs in Hot Water can Teach us about Thinking Again’. He says that us humans “struggle with rethinking in all kinds of situations”, in particular when it comes to “our goals, identities and habits, we tend to stick to our guns – and in a rapidly changing world, that’s a huge problem”. One global pandemic later and maybe it’s time to rethink the way we do business.

Escaping the ‘freedom of choice’ stranglehold

But there is a ‘wyse’ way out of this rut, which centres on the following approach:

  1. Get back to your purpose – Remind yourself of what got you here in the first place. What was the spark that ignited your business flame? The need you wanted to serve in your community? The change you wanted to make to the world? Let your raison d’être guide your discussions and influence your choices. As a result, your decisions will respond to the ever-increasing expectations that Covid has aroused not only in your customers, but in all of your stakeholders.
  2. Unearth the right question – To give yourself laser-sharp focus, it’s important to define the problem. And you can do this by unearthing the right question you need to ask. If you’re up the wrong mountain having read the wrong map, your question might be “how do I get home safely, with limited supplies and energy?”. Discovering what the right question is for your business and answering it collectively within your organisation, is energising for all and helps you cohesively walk the same path – united in your decision and the direction you need to take.
  3. Walk the path that emerges – With your purpose in mind and the problem collectively defined, your choices will now seem less perplexing and your decisions more satisfying, as a natural way forward emerges. Keeping your core at the heart of what you do will bring natural alignment, ensuring the right people are attracted to your business and the technologies and innovation you choose, remain relevant.

Although perhaps less helpful for picking out your next pair of jeans, this is an effective tried-and-tested Wyseminds’ approach that your business can use – to respond to change and overcome ‘choice paralysis’ in this topsy-turvy post-Covid era.

Here at Wyseminds we’re committed to supporting you on this journey – helping you to rediscover your purpose, navigate your choices and take your right next step. Start by signing up to our introductory Lift-Off programme – it’s our gift to women entrepreneurs everywhere and you can get involved completely free. 

Escape the paralysis now by signing up to our free Lift-Off Programme –and make the right choices for your business.

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